If you are like me, then your success has always been defined by your academic performance. Every homework assignment and exam had to be an A in order for you to be satisfied. But even getting only one question wrong was defeating. Finding out you made a dumb mistake was the worst feeling ever and, even to this day, you can remember some of the questions you got wrong on exams at the start of high school. Nothing was scarier than questioning some of your answers right after turning in an exam, calculating exactly what score you would receive if you got a certain number of questions wrong. That worked in high school. It was draining but there was an end goal. And for me, that was getting into my dream school… The University of Michigan.
So, here I am now at the school I have always dreamed of attending and I have never felt more burnt out. All that time in high school spent worried about assignments feels like a waste and I wish I could go back and tell younger me to take a deep breath. I absolutely love being here and it is everything I have ever dreamed it would be, but the emotional toll of trying to keep that persona of the perfect student has become too much. Our generation is constantly frowned upon because “we have it way easier than the generations before us” and “we do not know what hard work is,” but those phrases have been some of the most damaging things that could be said to us. How defeating it is to hear people label an entire generation as lazy when, in reality, most of us are so tired from trying to live up to the standards of our society. College has been a reality check for me, and the first time, I have taken a step back to understand what truly makes me happy. I have realized that no perfect exam has ever made me feel the way a night wandering around the city with my friends does. No high essay grade has ever made me smile like I do when I am driving around at night screaming music at the top of my lungs.
If there is one thing that I have learned since the beginning of college, it’s that I need to stop taking life so seriously. I do not mean that we should slack off and give up, but instead, prioritize our own happiness above all else… because we do not get to do this life over again. Twenty years from now, when college is just happy memories, I am not going to think about the essays and exams and homework assignments, but instead, the memories that I made with my friends. I want to look back at college and think of it as the best years of my life.
Up until this semester, I still defined my success by my GPA, but it has become too exhausting. So, I have promised myself that from this point on, I will do what makes me feel the happiest. I do not regret a single moment of my school experience up until this point, but I also understand now that it is okay to be burnt out. It is okay to move on from the mentality that I have to be the perfect student, because when it comes down to it, the state of my mental health is more important than any grade on a transcript could ever be. I wish someone had been able to get through to me in high school when they told me that grades are not everything, because it would have saved me a lot of tears. But, I am here now finally realizing that I must prioritize my own happiness each and every day. And if that means that my grades are not perfect anymore, then that is okay.